Black Lightning Deserves Better Headline than Black Lightning Strikes Twice

first_img Top Movie and TV Trailers You Might Have Missed This Week’Black Lightning’ Season 2 Finale Recap: Preparing for War Stay on target Second episodes can often be a bit of a letdown after a particularly good pilot. With the excitement of seeing something new gone, the show has to establish what a typical episode looks like. I don’t know if Black Lightning quite accomplished that, but it did manage an engaging follow-up to last week’s premiere. We’re still in the stage of the superhero story where the hero isn’t sure if he’s going to keep being a hero. Once he does, we’ll have a much better idea of what a typical episode and season of this show will be. Even though this episode didn’t quite get there, it did set up the major conflicts Jefferson Pierce will be dealing with throughout the first season.Being a superhero apparently gets harder as you age. As cool as Black Lightning looked in battle during last week’s premiere, he begins this episode in serious pain. He doesn’t bounce back the way he used to. At this point, Black Lightning’s return was still a one-time deal as far as Jefferson is concerned. His daughters are safe, and that’s that. Yeah, we still have a full season ahead of us. That’s not going to last long. Especially when Jefferson learns that the motel he stormed through reopened the next day. He saved his daughters, but he didn’t save anyone else’s. And that’s a problem for a former student named LaWanda, who’s daughter is still owned by the 100. This episode is all about her, which does a great job of driving home what’s exactly at stake. Jefferson cares deeply about his community. Every superhero does, but having a single character, one who’s deeply connected to the hero, represent that community’s plight allows this series to explore depths and emotions that aren’t available to The CW’s other DC shows.Tracey Bonner as LaWanda (Photo: Richard Ducree/The CW)LaWanda is the one who brings up the awkward point that Black Lightning only saved Jefferson’s daughters, but not anybody else’s. Now why would that be? Jefferson’s able to change the subject before the questions get too inconvenient, but he’s going to have to do a better job protecting his secret identity than that. This was a necessary episode because it demonstrated how much harder the decision to become a superhero is for a successful middle-aged man with a family. He has so many reasons not to suit up and fight bad guys. He desperately wants to believe that the system will do its job, even though it clearly hasn’t been all that effective. Last week, he was forced to suit up because his family was in danger. This week’s episode had to give him a reason to suit up even when his family was relatively safe.LaWanda parks outside of the Seahorse Motel, watching everything. While she’s out there, Pierce tries to talk her out of it while accepting constant assurances from his friend in the police, Inspector Henderson that they’re doing everything they can. And to his credit, he’s not lying. Most of the cops in Freeland range from corrupt to outright racist, but Henderson is not only one of the few good cops, he’s determined and effective. When he says he’s working on something, he is. He’s not even that much slower than Black Lightning in this episode. Unfortunately, neither are fast enough for LaWanda. Her presence outside the motel, combined with the raid of the hotel last week, has made Lala nervous. He storms out of the hotel and kills her. It’s a shocking moment. This level of violence in the second episode isn’t what we expect from a superhero show. It is effective though. Instead of a vague sense that the city needs a hero, we’re shown just how much the people of the city need a hero. It’s an important difference that most superhero shows never get around to acknowledging.Damon Gupton as Inspector Bill Henderson (Photo: Guy D’Alema/The CW)The action in this episode isn’t quite as spectacular as last week’s light show. LaWanda’s death convinces Jefferson that Black Lightning needs to come out of retirement. He storms the motel once again, taking out anyone who gets in his way. He might not be throwing around as many bolts as he did last week, but he still looks damn cool in that suit. Hopefully, the Seahorse stays shut down this time, but Lala’s out of the picture in any case. Right after Black Lightning busts through the motel, Henderson shows up to arrest Lala. LaWanda left her cell phone on the dashboard of her car, and it recorded the whole murder. Jefferson’s sly greeting to the inspector before he leaped out the balcony was easily the best part of the whole episode.Lala isn’t the biggest threat in Freeland though. That would be the still-enigmatic crime boss Tobias Whale, and he just looks scarier every episode. We get a little bit more of him here. Right at the very beginning, he goes on a racist tirade about the black population of Freeland, particularly those that work under him. It’s all the more messed up when you realize that Tobias Whale is black himself, but has albinism. It’s not something you expect to hear on The CW, but this show is not shying away from the more uncomfortable conversations about race. Whale really shows just how much of a threat he’s going to be right at the end. With friends in the police department, he’s allowed to walk right into Lala’s cell and choke the life out of him before he can snitch.Kyanna Simone Simpson as Keisha and China Anne McClain as Jennifer Pierce (Photo: Richard Ducree/The CW)Over on the lighter side of the episode, I love where the show is taking the daughters’ storylines. They both get very sweet relationship stories. Anissa has a girlfriend and holy crap is it refreshing to not have a coming out story or an unaccepting family member. Jefferson and Lynn know their daughter’s gay from the outset, and it’s just a fact of life for them. As for the couple themselves, they have a few adorable moments together, first in bed and then later on a walk. They are having some relationship issues, but ultimately, it’s a supportive, healthy relationship. Anissa is reluctant to meet her girlfriend, Cheoni’s family even though they’ve been together a long time, but she still trusts her enough to tell her about the incident with the sink from the end of last week’s episode. Cheoni tells Anissa that the sink was probably old and falling apart, but recommends she go to therapy to deal with the trauma. Whether she does or not remains to be seen, but we know the sink was not just old and falling apart. When Anissa’s having trouble sleeping, she goes to a drug store to get a sleep aid. A man holds up the register and puts a gun in Anissa’s face. Anissa reacts instinctively and flips the man over the aisle, knocking him out. She’s going to be a superhero just like her dad, and I can’t wait.Jennifer’s love story is sweet too, though it does go a little too far in the after school special direction for my taste. I’ll give the show credit for one thing though, the writing can be very good and naturalistic when it wants to be. Jennifer and her new boyfriend are adorable as they flirt together. They’re nervous and giggly in a way that feels familiar and real. But Jennifer is still dealing with her kidnapping from last week and starts drinking at school to cope. Her boyfriend takes the liquor away from her, and launches into a huge speech about how he runs so he can get out of Freeland. Like, it makes sense that Jennifer won’t deal with her trauma in a healthy way all the time. And it’s fine to have someone tell her to seek help, but that speech laid it on a little thick. Not every episode needs to have a lesson.Even with some very minor falters, Black Lightning turned in an especially strong second episode. It’s a hard thing for a superhero show to pull off, but this series does it with humor, charm and real emotion. By the end of the episode, Jefferson has made the decision to be Black Lightning again, but it becomes very clear that he has to choose between saving his city and repairing his relationship with his ex-wife. She doesn’t want him to be a hero anymore, and thinks he’s addicted to it. Their dynamic adds a welcome complexity to the show, and I really look forward to seeing how the struggle plays out. Jefferson’s choice to become Black Lightning again will always be a fraught and conflicted one, and that will make for some great superhero TV.center_img Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img read more

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